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Arrest made in 31-year-old murder case


After more than three decades of waiting, hoping and persevering, the family of Joy Hibbs said justice is finally going to prevail.

The arrest of Robert Francis Atkins, long considered a person of interest in Hibbs’ April 19, 1991 murder in her Croydon home, ends the family’s 31-year pursuit of having her suspected killer charged with the young mother’s horrific death.

The 56-year-old Atkins turned himself in to authorities May 25, said Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub, during a press conference.

“Atkins, for the past 31 years, has been living free but on borrowed time. Today, we start to collect on that time from him, with interest,” Weintraub said, in announcing the arrest. Following his arraignment, Atkins, of Falls Township, was taken to Bucks County Correctional Facility, where he’s being held without bail.

Although police had suspected Atkins, who lived just a few doors down the street from Hibbs, and had interviewed him at least twice, the case against him didn’t move forward. He always maintained his innocence, said authorities. It was not until his ex-wife, April Atkins, testified before a Bucks County grand jury earlier this year that the case became much stronger, said the DA.

She told the grand jury that Atkins came home April 19, 1991 covered in blood and told her to get the couple’s two children because they were going to the Poconos, where they stayed for two days, according to officials.

During her testimony, Atkins said her husband told her he stabbed someone and lit their house on fire. She said she did not report it to police and denied knowing about the murder because she was afraid of her husband. Weintraub said, April Atkins will not face any charges.

Robert Atkins is accused of stabbing Hibbs numerous times, strangling her with an electric cord and setting the house on fire to cover up the murder. He also faces robbery charges for allegedly stealing money from Hibbs’ wallet and seven counts of arson.

Weintraub said Atkins could face life in prison or, possibly, the death penalty.

In a statement, the Hibbs family said, “Joy Hibbs was a sweet, charming southern girl from central Florida. A loving and devoted mother, wife and medical assistant. She was highly regarded and loved by her friends, neighbors and co-workers alike.

”The immense grief and suffering our family has endured over the last three decades will never disappear. For 31 years, our family has been haunted by this tragic loss, knowing, without a doubt, that Robert Atkins was the perpetrator. Our family has waited 31 years for justice to prevail.”

The family thanked Weintraub, Chief Deputy DA Jennifer Schorn and Bucks County Detective David Hanks for pursuing the case. They also thanked Bristol Township Police Detective Michael Slaughter of the Bristol Township Police Department for his “tireless effort” and “seeking justice for our family.”